Things to do in Frankfurt: a one-day itinerary
Found yourself on a long layover in Frankfurt – or are you planning one? Forget about duty-free shopping and catching up on sleep: for a city that seemingly never stops working, the Hessian metropolis offers plenty of opportunities for adventure, relaxation and everything in between. Here’s what to see, do, eat and drink in one day for the ultimate Frankfurt experience.
Follow in the footsteps of German kings and emperors
Quaint and quintessentially German, Römerberg makes a perfect starting point for your exploration. A walk around Frankfurt’s iconic central square is a crash course in the city’s history – and that of the Holy Roman Empire. Opposite the Old St. Nicholas church is the Römer, a former patrician villa that has served as Frankfurt’s city hall for over 600 years. Visit the Frankfurt Cathedral, formally known as the Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew, a Gothic-style church where ten Holy Roman rulers were crowned up until 1792. For a view fit for a king, do climb the 382 stairs to the top of the cathedral tower.
Even though they look straight out of a Disney classic, the gabled houses of Römerberg stand as a reminder of a darker chapter in Frankfurt’s lore. A 1944 Allied bombing raid destroyed the city’s medieval Aldstadt (Old Town), Germany’s largest half-timbered historical center. The structures you see today are the result of meticulous reconstruction from original blueprints. Stop at the Justitiabrunnen for a photo op with Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice, and sit down for a well-deserved Frankfurter Rippchen (cured pork cutlets with sauerkraut) in one of the many cafés and eateries around the square.
Snap the ultimate Frankfurt skyline selfie on Eiserner Steg
For stunning views of Frankfurt am Main's skyline, punctured by Gothic church towers and glistening skyscrapers, head southwards to reach the river Main and cross the Eiserner Steg (Iron Footbridge). Another feat of Germany’s post-World War II reconstruction efforts, the footbridge is the only pedestrian bridge that connects Frankfurt’s downtown area and the Sachsenhausen neighborhood (the next stop on your tour). As you pass clusters of love locks and street musicians, note the quote from Homer’s Odyssey on one of the bridge towers (“With ship and crew, sailing over the wine-dark sea, unto men of strange speech”). It was added in celebration of the 2001 Museumsuferfest – and the diverse communities and cultures that make up the city today.
Go on a cultural pilgrimage on the Museumsufer
“Thirty-nine museums, endless discoveries.” It’s hard to disagree with the motto of Frankfurt’s Museumsufer (Museum Embankment), a string of world-class exhibition spaces that stretch over both banks of the river Main, all vying for your attention. Top contenders include the German Film Museum, dedicated to all things celluloid, the Jewish Museum, preserving 800 years of Jewish culture, including holdings of the Rothschild and Anne Frank’s family, and the birthplace of German literary giant Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
Having a hard time picking a winner? Check out the Städel Museum at Schaumainkai 63 for a tour of European art history from the early 14th century to the present day. Reason alone to book a flight to Frankfurt, Germany’s oldest museum foundation gives home to some 3,100 paintings, 660 sculptures, 5,000 photographs as well as 100,000 drawings and prints. Featured artists include old and modern masters, such as Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Dürer, Sandro Botticelli, Rembrandt van Rijn, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, Wolfgang Tillmans, Corinne Wasmuht and more.
Taste the best of Frankfurt cuisine in a cider tavern
Stretch your legs – and loosen your belt buckle – on the bench of an Apfelwein (apple wine) tavern, the Sachsenhausen district’s other claim to fame. Apfelwein, also called Ebbelwei, Äppler, Schoppe or Stöffche, is enjoyed hot and cold, plain or as Sauergespritzer (with sparkling water), with lemonade (Süßgespritzter) in the summer and cinnamon sticks in wintertime, across the “City of Cider.” But in this part of town, it comes with an extra serving of Gemütlichkeit (warmth and friendliness).
And, of course, with your wurst of choice, whether it’s a pair of boiled, lightly smoked Frankfurter Würstchen (pork sausage) or grilled Frankfurter Rindswurst (beef sausage).
Try Handkäse, a Hessian cheese specialty made from sour milk, plain or marinated with onions in oil and vinegar and sprinkled with salt and pepper (Handkäse mit Musik). Another local staple, Grüne Soße, a pea-green mixture of yogurt, sour cream and seven fresh herbs, pairs well with anything from pork Schnitzel to hard boiled eggs.
Take a green break from it all in the Palmengarten
Want to get your zen on in between connecting flights? Look no further than the Palmengarten, a year-round draw for locals and tourists alike in Frankfurt’s Westend-Süd neighborhood. Built by architect Heinrich Siesmayer in the 19th century, the lush grounds of the gardens sprawl across 54 acres and 14 glasshouses to bring together 13,000 plant species including subtropical palm trees, African succulent flora, carnivorous plants, fog desert rarities and much, much more. Check the gardens’ event calendar for concerts, from jazz to opera, photo exhibitions and festivals, such as the Rose Festival and Winter Lights, to round your evening out.
Planning a multi-day stopover? Check out our top day trips from Frankfurt, all easily accessible by train or car. Time to head back to the airport? Whether you’ve crossed one or all of these stops off your itinerary, we trust your one day in Frankfurt will be cherished for many more. Gute Fahrt!